Ill-equipped Punjab police run high risk of contracting virus

Updated April 05, 2020

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The police department highlighted the areas where the personnel deployed for the security were vulnerable and exposed to the virus threat. — AP/File
The police department highlighted the areas where the personnel deployed for the security were vulnerable and exposed to the virus threat. — AP/File

LAHORE: Forty per cent of the total police force (128,319) deployed all over the province has been exposed to the coronavirus threat after the Punjab government provided only five per cent of the demanded personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Punjab police had sent a request demanding 77,730 units of the PPE from the Punjab government to prevent the force that made the largest deployment for lockdown from disease. Through a letter addressed to the additional chief secretary on March 27, the police department had forwarded the request of the PPE at an estimated cost of Rs621 million (per unit cost is Rs800).

The police department highlighted the areas where the personnel deployed for the security were vulnerable and exposed to the virus threat.

“The PPE is required on an urgent basis for security duties of the Punjab police as preventive measures,” reads the letter issued by DIG Logistics and Procurement Faisal Rana.

Only five per cent of demand for protective gear has been fulfilled

In the letter on behalf of the provincial police officer, he also informed about a formula submitting minimum requirement for the Punjab police keeping in view the economic situation of the government.

The police are in dire need of 2,591 PPE sets to be used daily and these include 2,151 for the 717 police stations of Punjab, 40 for quarantine centres and 400 for the daily use of the police personnel deputed at the 50 state-run hospitals across the province.

Of the total 77,730 PPE sets, the police required 64,530 for the police stations for a period of 30 days, 400 for quarantine centres and 12,000 for hospitals, says the letter.

“It is requested that the authorities concerned (Senior Member Board of Revenues /Relief Commissioner Punjab) may please be moved for allocation of funds amounting to Rs62,184,000 for purchase of 77,730 PPE sets for 30 days for security duties of the Punjab police force,” it demands.

An official privy to the information said that shockingly the Punjab government provided only five per cent of the total requirement putting the health of field force at grave risk. Currently, he said, 40 per cent of the 128,319 field force deployed at over 350 sensitive points across Punjab are at risk of contracting the virus.

Of them, 12,207 police personnel have been exposed to the Covid-19 threat because of their direct or indirect physical interaction with the suspected and confirmed patients.

These police personnel are called ‘frontline soldiers’ due to the nature of jobs, he said adding that of them, 2,571 are deployed at the hospitals which have suspected and confirmed patients of the coronavirus, 5,014 at the quarantine centres, and 4,622 soldiers deployed with the Chinese and foreigners.

The police official said 21,952 personnel were deployed for section 144 enforcement, 2,001 for anti-hoarding duties, 9,398 for mobile and rest of the force for other important assignments in the wake of the lockdown.

During the Regional Police Officers’ conference, IGP Shoaib Dastgir had directed the force to play an effective role in these testing times. The official said the IGP led from the front and the force ensured maximum lockdown.

“We have received from the Provincial Disaster Management Authority coveralls, goggles, gloves, 500 N95 masks and 10,000 surgical masks only – all these things are much less than expectations,” he lamented.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2020